By Bill Fletcher, Jr. and Angela M. Gilliam
We, as African Americans, simply could not remain silent when word broke of the Israeli bombings of Gaza. Along with Cornel West and others, we circulated a petition condemning the aggression and demanding an end to the occupation. While most of the mainstream media immediately jumped to the defense of Israel, the African American political establishment remained silent about the entire episode.
We cannot cede our voices on foreign policy to others. African Americans have a moral and economic stake in the outcome of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The United States sends 8.5 million tax dollars a day to Israel. Both former US President Jimmy Carter and past South African President Nelson Mandela, among others, compare the occupation of Palestine with South African apartheid.
The most recent Israeli government attack on Gaza was an example of brutal violence. The power relationship between Israelis and Palestinians is asymmetric. That’s another way of staying, “Israelis hold disproportionate strength over Palestinians. Not only does Israel possess one of the strongest military establishments in the world, but that country is also a nuclear state, retaining at least one hundred nuclear weapons as well as delivery capability. On the other hand, the Palestinian rocket fire that is highlighted in the media is no match for Israel’s military power. The lopsided casualties – six Israelis and conservatively more than 150 Palestinians killed – tell the story. It is as if the Pittsburgh Steelers were “defending themselves” against a pre-Kindergarten ankle biter football team.
Gaza has been blockaded ever since the people there voted in 2006 for Hamas to lead them. The blockade causes significant scarcity of medical supplies and treatment, food, and greatly restricts movement of Palestinians. Despite global protests that such actions constitute “collective punishment” and under the Geneva Convention are unlawful, the Israeli government has carried out horrendous military assaults on Gaza resulting in widespread devastation, food insecurity and over ,1000 mostly civilian causalities in the 2008 air strikes alone.
In the immediate case, there have been military clashes between Israeli government and various Palestinian groups in Gaza. What was extraordinary about the circumstances leading to the November 2012 crisis was that a cease fire had been negotiated between Israel and Hamas. The cease-fire, mediated by Egypt, was broken within two days by the Israeli assassination of the Hamas military commander, Ahmed al-Jaabari, quickly followed by Israeli air strikes. Most of the victims of the strikes have once again been civilian, and disproportionately children.
Though a new cease fire was arranged through the assistance of the Egyptian government, underlying problems remain. Israel has officially ignored all United Nations resolutions calling for their withdrawal from the Occupied Territories, and refuses to permit Palestinians the internationally recognized “right of return” to lands from which they were driven beginning in 1947. Thus, more and more Palestinian land is devoured in ways that are reminiscent of the treatment of the indigenous peoples of North America and the Black majority in apartheid-era South Africa.
The Obama administration has had an opportunity to break from the past U.S. unconditional support for Israel and strike a more balanced stance that could play a meaningful role in negotiating for a lasting and just peace in the Middle East. Unfortunately, the Obama administration immediately endorsed the actions by the right-wing Israeli government. Instead, the US should cease providing military assistance to Israel and stop the economic aid that permits Israel to thumb its nose not only at the Palestinians and the United Nations but most of the world’s people as well.